With the 2016 NFL Draft on tap at the end of this month, Bucky Brooks is breaking down the biggest areas of need for every team in the NFL, division by division. Below is his look at the NFC North.
Chicago Bears (9 total picks)
Biggest needs: pass rusher, cornerback, quarterback.
The Bears must get their defense squared away to close in on their NFC North rivals in 2016. Coach John Fox and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio would like to find a complementary pass rusher to pair with Pernell McPhee on the outside to create headaches for opponents off the edges. Georgia's Leonard Floyd, Eastern Kentucky's Noah Spence and Clemson's Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd will certainly be considerations on Day 1, but the Bears could wait until the second round to snag Boise State's Kamalei Correa or Utah State's Kyler Fackrell. If they turn their attention to the cornerback position, Florida's Vernon Hargreaves, Ohio State's Eli Apple and Houston's William Jackson III will enter the conversation as Day 1 possibilities. Miami's Artie Burns, Baylor's Xavien Howard, Alabama's Cyrus Jones and Mississippi State's Will Redmond are worthy of consideration on Day 2. On offense, Chicago should entertain the possibility of adding a developmental quarterback to groom behind Jay Cutler. Michigan State's Connor Cook certainly has the pedigree to handle the role, but Mississippi State's Dak Prescott and USC's Cody Kessler could also garner attention.
Detroit Lions (10 total picks)
Biggest needs: offensive tackle, wide receiver, defensive tackle.
The Lions are poised to undergo a bit of a roster makeover under new general manager Bob Quinn, with pressing needs at key positions on both sides of the ball. On offense, they must find a pass protector to secure the edges for Matthew Stafford. Michigan State's Jack Conklin and Ohio State's Taylor Decker are strong possibilities in the first round, due to their ability to play left or right tackle. If the Lions wait until Day 2, Indiana's Jason Spriggs, Texas A&M's Germain Ifedi and Texas Tech's Le'Raven Clark could be in the crosshairs as intriguing options. Calvin Johnson's retirement could force the staff to spend a little time scouring the receiver market for "chain movers" with strong hands and crafty route-running skills. Ohio State's Michael Thomas, Pittsburgh's Tyler Boyd, Rutgers' Leonte Carroo and Oklahoma's Sterling Shepard certainly possess the skills needed to thrive in the role. On defense, the Lions need to find a disruptive defensive tackle to create chaos in the middle. Louisville's Sheldon Rankins, Mississippi's Robert Nkemdiche and Mississippi State's Chris Jones each have the athleticism to handle the role as a run stopper/pass rusher, but the team could also consider Alabama's A'Shawn Robinson and Jarran Reed as one-dimensional (run-stopping) playmakers.
Green Bay Packers (9 total picks)
» Round 1: Pick 27 overall
» Round 2: Pick 57
» Round 3: Pick 88
» Round 4: Picks 125, 131 (compensatory selection) and 137 (compensatory selection)
» Round 5: Pick 163
» Round 6: Pick 200
» Round 7: Pick 248
Biggest needs: inside linebacker, outside linebacker, defensive tackle.
GM Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy will focus their draft-day efforts on rebuilding the Packers' defense, particularly the front seven. B.J. Raji's surprising "hiatus" puts defensive tackle at the top of the team's priority list, which makes Baylor's Andrew Billings, Alabama's A'Shawn Robinson, UCLA's Kenny Clark and Louisiana Tech's Vernon Butler considerations on Day 1. If the Packers patiently wait on a sleeper, South Carolina State's Javon Hargrave and Georgia Tech's Adam Gotsis could garner strong interest. At inside linebacker, Alabama's Reggie Ragland, Missouri's Kentrell Brothers, Oklahoma's Dominique Alexander and Temple's Tyler Matakevich could be considered "plug-and-play" prospects at the position. Ragland could draw interest on Day 1, but the other prospects might be better values as mid-round selections. Expect the Packers to also spend some time scouring the pass-rusher market to find a rotational player to slot behind Julius Peppers and Clay Matthews. Eastern Kentucky's Noah Spence, Boise State's Kamalei Correa and Utah State's Kyler Fackrell are strong possibilities for the role.
Minnesota Vikings (8 total picks)
Biggest needs: wide receiver, linebacker, safety.
The Vikings are quietly emerging as a legitimate contender in the NFC behind an ultra-athletic defense and a hard-hitting offense fueled by a powerful running game. However, they must enhance their offensive attack to close the gap on the heavyweights in the conference. At wide receiver, the Vikings could use a true WR1 to help Teddy Bridgewater take his game to the next level. Mississippi's Laquon Treadwell and TCU's Josh Doctson are prime candidates to fill the role as big-bodied pass catchers with strong hands and exceptional ball skills. If Minnesota looks beyond the first round, the team could consider Ohio State's Michael Thomas and Pittsburgh's Tyler Boyd as viable targets. On defense, coach Mike Zimmer would love to add a few playmakers to the linebacker corps and defensive backfield. At linebacker, the addition of Georgia's Leonard Floyd, Ohio State's Darron Lee or LSU's Deion Jones would fortify the corps as an eventual replacement to Chad Greenway. Despite locking up a few veterans at safety (Michael Griffin and Andrew Sendejo), the Vikings need to identify a young ballhawk/enforcer to fill the role. Florida's Keanu Neal and West Virginia's Karl Joseph are intriguing options on Day 2, but LSU's Jalen Mills, Boise State's Darian Thompson and Maryland's Sean Davis could also be in play as mid-round values.